When I was growing up, I honestly didn’t know what kale was. In fact, spinach was even a foreign object to me.
Any salads I would eat consisted of water-rich iceberg lettuce, genetically modified tennis ball tomatoes, and conventional white onions and cucumbers. Brand name salad dressings were the usual topping.
When I started to shift my outlook on health and nutrition, kale was among the first healthy foods I added to my diet. Kale is extremely versatile: I mix it in salads, pastas, soups, smoothies, or steam with other healthy foods such as Brussels sprouts, and I also create chips with it. It can really be eaten at every meal and even snack time. There is not just one type either. Other types of kale you might find are ornamental kale and lacinato kale (also known as dinosaur kale).
Some people hail kale as a food trend because of its recent popularity—but trends usually end and why would you want to stop eating it?
If kale was a boxer, it would be a heavyweight champion because it is definitely a superfood powerhouse. One cup of cooked kale contains 1327.6% of your daily vitamin K, vitamin A is 354.1%, and vitamin C is 88.8%. There are many benefits of kale: it contains major nutrients such as iron, calcium, protein, copper, potassium, tryptophan, B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, phosphorus, and manganese. Kale is also a great source of fiber, and contains only 33 calories per cup.
Some more benefits of kale include its sulfur-containing phytonutrients, including isothiocyanates, glucosinolates, zeaxanthin, luteins, sulforaphane, kampferol, indole-3-carboxylic acid, sinigrin, and quercetin. Phytonutrients are important to help with your body’s functioning, while it may also help prevent disease.
Put down your salad and let me interrupt your kale crunching for another few minutes.
5 Major Health Benefits of Eating Kale
1. An Abundance of Vitamin K
Kale starts with K, which might be why it’s such a great source of vitamin K. The powerful antioxidant vitamin can help halt cancer in its track when patients digest this superfood—just one of the many benefits of kale. Vitamin K also helps with bone health, antioxidant activity, and preventing blood clotting.
Because kale contains so much vitamin K, people taking anticoagulants or blood thinners should see a doctor before eating kale. This is because the high level of vitamin K may cause interference with the drugs.
2. Kale Protects Against Cancers
It’s not just kale’s vitamin K that protects you from developing cancers, as another one of the benefits of kale, vitamin A, also plays a part in preventing lung and oral cavity cancers from forming.
Also, when you digest kale, your body converts glucosinolates to create cancer preventive compounds. When you routinely eat healthy foods such as kale, you decrease the risk of cancers such as bladder, prostate, and ovarian.
3. Stops Inflammation in Tracks
Kale contains omega-3, which is potentially important for anti-inflammation. One cup of kale contains 5.4% of the recommended daily value of omega-3 fatty acids, helping against anti-inflammation concerns, such as autoimmune disorders, asthma, and arthritis—talk about the amazing benefits of kale. Vitamin K is also great for your body’s inflammatory regulation.
4. Essential for Vision
As soon as you first laid eyes on kale, did you know it would help your eyes? Well, healthy foods like kale boost eye vision too. Kale is a great source of zeaxanthin and lutein, containing 26 grams combined, for every 67-gram serving.
Steady consumption of the phytonutrients may prevent macular degeneration and other retinal decreases.
5. Essential for Detoxification
With various processed foods potentially carcinogenic, the sulforaphane in kale helps your body detox enzymes to flush that unwanted substance from your system.
Sulfur and fiber are also essential for your body’s detoxification, while healthy liver maintenance provide more benefits of kale. Another reason to add kale to your list of healthy foods!
Kale and other leafy greens such as collard greens, lettuce, chard, and spinach are all listed on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen. When these vegetables are sprayed with pesticides, the chemical residue tends to remain.
It is in your best interest to purchase organic kale to avoid consuming these pesticides, (plus, the prices are fairly similar).
Haas, E., et al, Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine (New York: Ten Speed Press, 2006), 312.
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“All 48 Fruits And Vegetables With Pesticide Residue Data,” Environmental Working Group web site; http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php.
Ji, S., “Crouching Garnish, Hidden Superfood: The Secret Life of Kale,” Mercola.com web site, Nov. 6, 2013; http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/11/06/kale-benefits.aspx.
“Kale: The Underappreciated Superfood,” Alive Raw web site; http://www.aliveraw.com/Articles/Kale-The-Underappreciated-Superfood.aspx.
Lewis, A., “Top 10 Health Benefits of Eating Kale,” MindBodyGreen web site, April 2, 2012; http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4408/Top-10-Health-Benefits-of-Eating-Kale.html.
“Kale: What’s New and Beneficial About Kale,” World’s Healthiest Foods web site; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=38.
“Weight Loss & Diet Plans: Phytonutrients,” WebMD web site; http://www.webmd.com/diet/phytonutrients-faq.